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Alexei Volkov

Tsinghua University
A study of medieval mathematical manuscripts from Dunhuang (China)
01 February 2020 -
30 June 2020
History, philosophy and sociology of science

Alexei Volkov is Professor of History at National Tsing-Hua University (Taiwan). He got his bachelor and master degrees from Mathematics department of the Moscow State University and his doctoral degree from the Institute for the History of Science and Technology of the Academy of Sciences (Moscow). His dissertation was devoted to the history of Chinese mathematics of the first millennium AD. In 1986-2006 he held academic positions in USSR/Russia, France, Hong Kong, and Canada. Since 2006 he works in the National Tsing-Hua University (Taiwan). In 2007 he was a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton). His recent publications include a co-edited monograph Computations and Computing Devices in Mathematics Education before the Advent of Electronic Calculators (Springer, 2018).

Research Interests

History of mathematics and mathematics education in China prior to the 17th century; history of mathematics and mathematics education in traditional Vietnam, Korea, and Japan

A study of medieval mathematical manuscripts from Dunhuang (China)

I propose to conduct a study of the mathematical manuscripts found in a cave of the Buddhist monastery in Dunhuang (China) sealed between 1006 and 1035 and currently preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris) and in the British Library (London). These manuscripts are unique samples of the mathematical texts used for instruction in the late first millennium AD in China. There exist preliminary studies of their contents published by Chinese and Western scholars; however, neither their critical edition nor comprehensive annotated translations have ever been published. The main goal of this project is to prepare a fully annotated (English) translation of the extant mathematical texts and fragments from Dunhuang that will also include critical edition of the original texts, a detailed analysis of their contents, and their systematic comparison with other Chinese mathematical texts of the 1st and early 2nd millennium AD. More specifically, for each structural element of the texts (a problem and an algorithm of solution), I will identify similar or identical element(s) found in extant Chinese mathematical treatises produced from the late first millennium BC to the mid-second millennium AD, compare it with these elements, and explore hypotheses concerning possible connections between them.

Middle ages
Eastern Asia